Yachts follow the rhumb line through the Arafura Sea to the Indonesian island of Sermata which peaks at 392 metres and lies east of Timor Leste. Next it’s the depths of the Banda Sea, passing close to the Island of Damar which peaks at 868 metres, and then on to Ambon. Ambon lies approx 355º T from Darwin. Yachts usually enjoy fresh south-easterly winds until they enter Ambon Harbour. The hills around Ambon can rein the breezes to a zephyr – a half a knot ebbing tide can then become a major obstacle to reaching the finishing line.
On arrival all yachts are welcomed by the firing of a parachute flare. This also alerts the locals of the arrival of another vessel, and many head to the beach at the village of Amahusu to watch and welcome the newcomers. The people of Ambon are acutely aware of the economic benefits that the race brings to their city. During a stay in Ambon, almost every conceivable commodity is available at bargain prices.
Customs, Quarantine and Immigration Officers attend to the necessary paperwork before the crew is allowed ashore for a welcome shower and change of clothes. Then it’s a taxi into the city to experience the cultures of Indonesia …. but that’s another story!
The presentation ceremony in Ambon is unforgettable. It is usually held around noon on the Saturday following race start. It is truly a gala event, and is normally attended by the Governor of Maluku, the Lord Mayor of Ambon and senior Government representatives from Jakarta and the Northern Territory of Australia. All participants are adorned in their very best ceremonial attire – possibly to impress the gathering of International media who are present.
Sunday is usually reserved by the skippers and crews to invite the locals on board for a sail around the harbour. There are never enough yachts (and there never will be) to accommodate the thousands of expectant faces lined up on the shore, awaiting a beckoning wave from a crew member.
As the new week gains momentum, awnings are stowed and vessels are made ocean ready again for the next leg of an odyssey. Someone once said that exploring the back blocks of civilisation could never be done from terra firma and that’s exactly what yachting is all about.